High noon, mid-summer, clear skies, Washington, DC, 90 degrees plus.
Today is the second meeting of the newly established Commission on Election Integrity, a hand-picked group determined to prove that Trump, not Clinton, won the 3 million-5 million popular vote margin, in addition to his Electoral College "victory," that Hillary Clinton is credited with--the largest in history ever won by a presidential "loser."
The first meeting of the CEI was not publicized. Today's meeting is closed to the public but was accessible live at CNN's website (I wasn't watching it, so can't swear to this). Members of the committee include notorious villains who have polluted principles of election integrity in the past: the infamous Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation who outspokenly champions the existence of voter fraud and hence the necessity of voter ID; and Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state, who so distorted results in Ohio in Election 2004 that the electoral votes selected G. W. Bush instead of the rightful winner John Kerry.
The chair of this American "dream team" is Vice President Pence; the vice chair, vice-ridden, is the infamous KKKris Kobach (nickname courtesy of Greg Palast), Kansas's secretary of state and founder and executor of the Kansas-based interstate crosscheck program that eliminates voters from registration lists if their first and last names are similar. In this program, John Jones and Jonathan Q. Jones, living on opposite sides of the country, may be guilty of voter fraud and are hence eliminated from the lists.
But it was the CEI that has provoked opposition from citizens throughout the country that the RespectMyVote rally this morning objected to. The specific outrage was the letter sent out to all the states soliciting voter lists that include sensitive information, up to and including the last four digits of social security numbers. [I have read that given these four numbers, it is easy to figure out the preceding five.]
Around 100 angry activists representing dozens of groups turned out at the southwest corner of Lafayette Square, which borders the back of the White House. A permit had been secured in advance. The group first rallied in this area, with police standing behind us holding, I am told, semi-automatic guns. After 15 minutes of speeches, a police bullhorn rudely interrupted to herd us out of the park onto H Street. The park and back area of the White House were being cleared for security reasons, we were told.
When I asked an officer whether our rally was the reason, he said that we shouldn't consider ourselves so important. However, the minute the rally broke up the cordoned-off area (with police barriers as well as yellow tape) was opened up.
I hope that the police who continued to guard us from the back learned something from the many speakers, representing, in addition to #RespectMy Vote, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, ACLU, PFAW, AAUW, Color of Change, Common Cause, Election Protection, and many others.
At midday H Street is full of traffic and hence noise interfered with my ability to hear names and parts of speeches. Below are some highlights, history-making and deeply disturbing.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, head of the Hip Hop Caucus, the parent organization of RespectMy Vote, said that in all his years of activism he had never encountered this violation of official permission for use of a rally site.
Today's occasion is the most signal event since the pre-VRA 1960s, another speaker said. Our grandparents died for the vote back then. We must honor them by fighting to keep this sacred right that is the bulwark of democracy.
"Can't stop/Won't stop" was the first chant shared between the speakers and the protesters; "Can vote/Can't block our vote" was another.
Karen Hobert Flynn, head of Common Cause, said that her organization of 1,000,000+ had filed a lawsuit last week; that there are federal laws that block this invasion of privacy. Thirty thousand Common Cause members sent in protest comments.
Representing the NAACP, attorney Todd Cox said that, at 80 years, it is the oldest civil rights legal organization in the country. He warned that the commission's "investigations" will focus on inner city voters, those most likely to vote Democratic. He called the group the Commission on Election Suppression.
It was close to this time at the rally that we were herded away. I was one of the last to leave, scribbling madly, photographing, holding up my cane so that I wouldn't be grabbed (my bones break easily).
I think that the first words spoken at our new location, were that no funding should be allocated to this sham vote-suppressing group. Kobach had previously bragged that his home state Kansas's crosscheck program required minimal if any taxpayer funds but I later read that the Koch brothers had treated him to it.